They overcame a slow start to the season and a coaching change in April.
But Saturday at Wheeler Field in Centralia, the Auburn High baseball team simply didn’t have enough gas left in its high-octane tank to overcome Kelso in a Class 3A state quarterfinal game.
The Trojans opened play Saturday with a convincing 12-4 victory against Blanchet, but hit a roadblock against second-ranked Kelso in the quarterfinals, falling 10-8 in 10 innings.
“These guys did a great job of overcoming adversity,” Auburn interim coach Gordon Elliott said. “Coaching changes and weather … putting it all in perspective, the guys did a great job just getting there.”
Auburn (17-6) was trying to advance to the state’s final four for the third straight year. The Trojans were making their fifth consecutive state appearance and eighth in the last nine years.
History aside, however, Auburn simply didn’t take advantage of opportunities against Kelso.
“In the bottom of the seventh, eighth and ninth, we had the winning run on base, but couldn’t get it in,” Elliott lamented. “We had every opportunity, but just didn’t get the clutch hit.”
Auburn wasn’t entirely without clutch hits, however, as Colton Brown launched a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth, tying the game at 8-8.
But it’s the one that didn’t quite clear the fence that frustrated Brown the most. With Auburn own 7-6 in the bottom of the seventh, Brown delivered what he – and others – believed was going to be a walk-off two-run homer to dead center field.
“The thing was tanked,” said Brown, who went seven innings on the mound with seven strikeouts against Kelso. “I hit it like a mile and the wind brought it back.”Auburn catcher Kyle Buchanan thought it was a game-winning homer off the bat, as well.
“I thought it was gone,” Buchanan said. “I was on the field, threw my water bottle up in the stands and everything.”
Auburn made quick work of Blanchet in the opener. David Olson worked five strong innings, allowing just three runs, and went 2 for 3 with a home run and four RBIs at the plate. Left fielder Garrett Rutledge added a pair of hits, including a home run, and four RBIs against Blanchet.
But it was the loss to Kelso, rather than the win over Blanchet, that stuck with the Trojans.
“It was pretty tough, but we played our (butts) off for 10 innings,” Buchanan said. “I feel we should’ve had it. Things fell for (Kelso), things didn’t fall for us.
“It was one of those deals.”